Be “LEAN” but don’t be “MEAN”

Ready for another rant?

Take a document to any lawyer and chances are they will want to make changes.  Bring your car into your local garage, chances are they will find something to fix.

This “spider in the web” approach to doing business is quite different from roving crews with hammers looking for things to hit.

I “get” continuous process improvement (CPI) as a way to keep LEAN  practitioners busy.

The only problem is there is not enough time/resources to fix all problems so it’s a good idea to spend a reasonable amount of time on identifying the 20% of issues that cause 80% of the problem.

Once you have fixed these problems, it pays to tread lightly on further “improvements” because of the law of diminishing returns.

Next, we have the “principle of conservation of difficulty” that one of my correspondents pointed out had a practical implementation called “whack a mole”.

I had never heard of “whack a mole” but it finally dawned on me that it means “fix this, break that”.  Works for sure in the area of do-it-yourself plumbing.

Bottom line, all change costs money and is disruptive.

So, my point regarding CPI is, nice concept, just don’t take it to extremes.

LEAN  is a long established methodology,  I suspect its greatest area of success is serial manufacturing but we can extend that to custom serial manufacturing today providing a product has been designed in such a way that it accommodates excursions from standard.

In fast-changing environments where strategic plans are updated every 18 months instead of every 5 years and where updates to strategy require updates to operations, LEAN oftentimes does not have time to do its magic.

Too much of a focus on LEAN brings you to MEAN (penny wise but pound foolish).


Management consultant and process control engineer (MSc EE) with a focus on bridging the gap between operations and strategy in the areas of critical infrastructure protection, major crimes case management, healthcare services delivery, and b2b/b2c/b2d transactions. (C) 2010-2021 Karl Walter Keirstead, P. Eng. All rights reserved. The opinions expressed here are those of the author, and are not connected with Jay-Kell Technologies Inc, Civerex Systems Inc. (Canada), Civerex Systems Inc. (USA) or CvX Productions Number of accessing countries 2010-2020 : 168
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1 Response to Be “LEAN” but don’t be “MEAN”

  1. Very true, if you vote for big government, all they will do is to make laws and execute them … what else would they do? Which means in business that the only department that is never optimized is the operations management staff. They will be the ones to want more and more bureaucracy and ask for more and more compliance because they are in bed with the people in big government …


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